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Published: Thursday, 5/15/2008

City urged to advance 11 Marina proposals

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Johnson Johnson
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

The Finkbeiner administration is fighting tight deadlines to secure approval from City Council and the Toledo Board of Education on crucial pieces of legislation to keep the Marina District project on schedule, officials said yesterday.

"If the school board doesn't act and the city doesn't act, the bonds will not close on July 10," said Jennifer Johnson, the city's manager of real estate.

Officials warn that a delay in securing the bonds would affect the construction timetable.

Eleven proposed ordinances will be before council Tuesday, all dealing with the Marina District in East Toledo. Among them is a proposal to convey 58 acres of city-owned property to developer Larry Dillin and establish a tax increment financing area.

There also is a request to enter into an agreement with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which will issue $14.8 million in tax-exempt development revenue bonds, proceeds of which will be used to pay for public infrastructure improvements.

The school board must approve the tax-increment financing area at its May 27 meeting, Ms. Johnson said.

Yesterday, Toledo schools Treasurer Dan Romano said the district is still waiting for information. "There is no question it is an attractive project and would be a great project for the east side," he said. "I think our board is prudent enough to get all the information before they make a decision."

Councilman Joe McNamara said the "last-minute" time crunch on a project the city has been working on for years developed because "the city's department of economic development is grossly understaffed and it has never had a director in this term."

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner is the department's director and Ms. Johnson, a city attorney, is interim commissioner.

"The mayor has other duties and economic development is a full-time, separate job that should have been filled and there is money in the budget for that," Mr. McNamara said.

The new pedestrian-friendly "Riverfront Park at Toledo Marina District" is to begin taking shape in July on the once-polluted site of the decommissioned Acme power plant, formerly owned by Toledo Edison. The 125-acre district is bounded by the Maumee River, Front and Main streets, and I-280.

Councilman Michael Ashford was critical of turning over 58 acres of public property to Mr. Dillin for free.

"It's good to be Larry Dillin," Mr. Ashford said.

Ms. Johnson quickly replied: "It's good to be us. In exchange for that 58 acres, the city will be getting a $320 million development." She said the city would reap $3.2 million in income tax alone from construction of the project.

Councilman Mike Craig, whose district includes the site, said the alternative is much less attractive. "The more immediate benefit is we are taking blighted property and will have a development on it in a year," he said.

The financing structure is complicated, but it ensures the public is not on the hook for the money, said Paul Toth, vice president of technical and financing services for the port authority.

The $320 million Marina District is getting a $10 million public road and park investment, to be followed by a $75 million private investment promised by Mr. Dillin to pay for the first phase of residential, retail, and commercial construction.

Included in the financing is a $1.1 million loan from the State Infrastructure Bank; a $1.5 million grant from the Ohio Department of Development, and a $4.9 million grant from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission.

The $1.1 million loan from the State Infrastructure Bank would be paid back over 10 years at 3 percent interest, with no interest the first year, and with payback deferred for 30 months.

A community reinvestment area is already in place in East Toledo and provides 15 years of tax abatement - 100 percent for any improvements. The tax-increment financing will create an additional 15 years. During that 15-year period, TPS will be paid its portion of the taxes from the property.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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